When you choose to elope, you’ve chosen to have a wedding day that reflects you and your relationship with your person. You’ve chosen to spend that day doing the things you love the most, in the place (or places) you love the most. Planning an elopement is a lot of fun because you have the freedom to do whatever YOU want to do. There are no rules. And, because there are no rules, it can get overwhelming. On this blog post I’ll be answering to some of the most common questions we get asked from our adventurous couples! That way, when it comes the time for you to start planning your elopement, you’ll have more clarity!
#1 How do we choose our location?
Your elopement location is probably one of the first things you’ll choose when you start planning. When it comes to your location, the sky is the limit. You can go a few different routes, and here are two examples:
- Choose a place that’s special to both of you: this location will most likely be somewhere you both love, and a place where you’ve created some amazing memories together. It can be somewhere really close to home or somewhere you went on a trip together!
- Choose somewhere you’ve always wanted to go: this is a place that’s been on our bucket list! You’ve been dreaming to go there! The advantage of picking a location like that is that you get to explore a new place together, get married, and have your honeymoon all in one trip!
Before picking your location, there are a few things you should take in consideration, so here are 5 questions you can ask yourself before making the decision:
1. are you planning on having guests? If so, consider their hiking desire/ability before picking your location!
2. is your location a pretty touristy spot? If the answer is yes, ask your photographers if they know of spots near it where you could escape from the crowds!
3. how’s the weather? If it’s pretty unpredictable (which is pretty normal in the mountains), keep an open mind about it, and be prepared to embrace sunshine or rain!
4. is the location opened all year round? If it has closed in the past, for some reason, it’s a good idea to have 1 or 2 backup locations just in case!
5. and most importantly… can you imagine yourself getting married anywhere else?!
Choosing your elopement location is one of the most exciting parts of the planning process! Take your time doing research and don’t be hesitant to ask us for tips and recommendations as well!
#2 How long do couples hike?
Short answer: as long as it takes.
There isn’t a limit of how far couples would go to elope and, of course, that will depend on some of the factors I’ve mentioned on the first topic. If you want to have guests, definitely make sure they’re super comfortable hiking whatever distance you’ve chosen to hike! Set the expectations clearly and let them know they can be totally honest about their answer! You don’t want a special guest saying yes to hiking for 1 or 2 hours and then regretting their decision. It’s better to have those conversations in the beginning of the planning process than later on or worse, during the elopement!
If it’s just the two of you and you’re super used to hiking long distances, then you have more freedom! For Erika & Marcelo’s elopement, we hiked for 6 hours, slept on a hut at the top of a mountain, and woke up at 4 am the next day for their ceremony at sunrise! These two are mountain climbers and hiking guides in Brazil, so for them, that was not a hard hike. It was the place where he proposed to her, and the only place they could imagine themselves getting married, so it was worth all the efforts involved.
#3 Do we need to get a wedding permit?
If you’re getting married in a State Park, National Park, or National Forest, chances are the answer to this question is YES. But don’t worry! The permit application process tends to be simple, and it usually doesn’t cost too much either. Just so you have an idea, a wedding permit for Yosemite National Park costs $150, and for Big Sur is $350. The prices vary from location to location, but let’s be honest, it is still much cheaper than a wedding venue!
Once you’ve picked your location, start doing the research on permits. National Parks websites for example, always have a permits tab that explains the whole process. Feel free to ask us for help as well, we have applied for countless permits, especially for Yosemite. But even if it’s a place we’ve never shot before, we’ll research along with you as well!
#4 How much photo coverage do I need?
This is one of the most common mistakes couples make – they tend to rush their elopement day. Traditional weddings are usually 8-10 hours long, if not more. So why should your wedding day be any shorter? Eloping isn’t any less special, and there are some many beautiful moments to be captured on an elopement day!
When planning your elopement, take that advice into consideration, and don’t settle for a quick 2-hour thing. Your day is unique and beautiful, and you deserve it to be documented so you can relive it over and over again.
#5 Then… what do we do?
Here’s another fun part: WHATEVER YOU WANT (seriously). When deciding what “activities” to do on your elopement day, simply get together with your partner, and start thinking about some of the things you two absolutely LOVE to do together!
If you’re reading this, I’m assuming you’re outdoor lovers. But what do you love to do when you’re outdoors? Going for a hike, watching the sunrise, having a picnic at sunset, dip your feet in the ocean, the list goes on! Once you have that list, you can also start implementing the elements of a “traditional” wedding day, like:
- Having a first look
- Doing your ceremony at the end of a hike
- Reading your personal vows to each other
- Cutting your wedding cake
- Celebrating with some champagne
- Taking family pictures (if you have guests)
- Reading letters from your friends & family
These are just some examples, but there’s a LOT that you can do on your elopement day, and the best part is: you get to choose EXACTLY what you want to do. And we’ll be there along the way to capture it.
#6 And what about the dress, flowers, officiant, and etc…?
Before you start thinking about all of these other elements of your day, it’s better to have a good idea of what your day will look like.
For your dress for example, think about the location, the weather, how long you’ll be in your dress for, and how much walking you’ll be doing in your dress. Oh, and make sure you test your dress for flowyness (I really don’t think this word exists, but I’m going to roll with it). Nothing beats a good flowy dress in the outdoors.
For other elements like the bouquet and the cake, let them know how long you’ll be hiking for, or how long you’ll be outside for. Let them know what your day looks like. That will definitely give them a good idea of how resistant they should be! Florists that have done elopement before also have a good idea of what plans are not allowed in certain areas. As an example: Yosemite does not allow baby’s breath. Certain flowers or foliage that may fall from your bouquet can be detrimental to the environment you’re in, so that’s definitely something to consider! Chat with them about that!
For your officiant, it really depends on where you’ll be getting married. In the state of California for example, anyone over the age of 18 can get ordained online and be able to officially marry you. So what a lot of couples choose to do is, they choose a special friend or family member and have them marrying them. It’s a really cool option because it will make the ceremony even more special.
Another route you can go is hiring an adventurous officiant and YES, they exist and they’re awesome! Ask us for recommendations, and we’ll be so happy to send them your way!
#7 How do we include our family & friends?
As I mentioned before, you can totally have guests on your elopement, depending on the location you choose, level of difficulty to get there, and their willingness to hike. There are several gorgeous locations in California that don’t require a lot of hiking to get there, like some places in Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park, and Big Sur, for example. We’d be more than happy to give you some specific locations where you could easily include your family and friends.
Another thing you can do is renting a super cool Airbnb and meeting them up for dinner after your full day of adventures! They’ll be so happy to be apart of your day, and you’ll have so much to tell them during dinner. You can also have them write you letters so you can read through them at some point during your day, and that’s always so special. If the place you’re going to has service, it might be a good idea to separate a few minutes to facetime your family.
#8 Can we bring our dog?
I wish my answer could always be 100% YES, but that will depend on the location you choose. So if you can’t imagine getting married without your furry friend, then put that on the priority list before picking your location!
As an example, most National Parks are somewhat dog friendly, but with a lot of restrictions. Yosemite allows them in developed and paved areas, but not in trails, and you’ll find that most National Parks have the same rules.
For David & Bahar, they HAD to have Oreo on their wedding day. Oreo, this cutie pie in the video, was the reason they met, and the reason why they started dating. So when they start planning their elopement, they knew they had to find dog-friendly locations! They got ready and had their first look at Ventana Big Sur, and then had their ceremony by the ocean.
Big Sur was the perfect place for their elopement, because is full of dog-friendly trails and beaches!
#9 What if it rains?
We’ll dance in the rain.
Okay, jokes aside, this is one of the most common questions we get asked. When you choose to say I do in the outdoors, always keep in mind that there’s no way of controlling the weather. In some places, it’s even hard to predict the weather at all.
On the photographer’s side of things, this is one of the many reasons why we shoot with Canon. Canon gear is a beast. It survived our climb to the top of Mount Fuji in Japan 3 years ago during a typhoon. Yes, it was pouring for 4 hours as we made our ascend.
Keep an open mind about the weather and embrace whatever comes your way! Rain or sunshine. I know it’s easier said than done, but I promise that having that kind of attitude you’ll make your enjoy your day to the max no matter what happens! After all… YOU’RE GETTING MARRIED!
#10 How far in advance should we start planning?
That is a relative question. Couples book us from 1 year in advance to 1 week (no kidding). Last-minute planning can be a little harder and more stressful, but if you’re flexible with your date and location, we’ll do everything we can to make it happen!
A few tips to make your planning process easier:
- Consider getting married on a weekday – there’s nothing better than inquiring with the vendors of your dreams and finding out that they’re available! Unfortunately, there are only so many Saturdays in a year, and most people want to get married on that day. But if you’re planning to get married on a weekday, your chances will double!
- Consider getting married in the “off season” – some places, and especially National Parks, have really busy seasons through the year. Summer in Yosemite on a weekend for example, is crazy and beyond crowded. Choosing to get married in off seasons like fall or winter, will allow you to escape from the tourist crowds!
- Consider getting married at sunrise – if there’s something we’ve learned in all of our years traveling is that most people aren’t morning people. And even though it’s not every morning that we are super excited about waking up at 3 or 4 am, we came to the conclusion that is always worth it. Seeing that first light of the day, wherever you are, in a quiet, empty location, is the best feeling. Now imagine getting married like that. Just you two, your words to each other, the sun rising. Yep. Worth it.
After knowing your location and date, we’ll help with details, logistics, and timeline! And that can be planned with a whole year in advance, or just a few days! We will make it happen!
Leave No Trace is a set of principles we can all practice to make sure we leave anywhere we go, better than how we found it. It’s such a privilege to be able to use those stunning backgrounds, like Yosemite National Park and Big Sur, to create the perfect + unique elopement days. But we can’t take calling these lands our wedding venues for granted.
The principles are:
- Plan ahead & prepare
- Travel & camp on durable surfaces
- Dispose of waste properly
- Leave what you find
- Minimize campfire impacts
- Respect wildlife
- Be considerate of others
We took the Leave No Trace Course created by some of the pioneers in the elopement industry and we are now “Leave No Trace Aware Photographers”. That way, we can help couples create unique wedding experiences that are kind to the planet.
That’s a wrap!
I hope this post has helped you and given you some guidance and clarity!
- Full-day Elopement at Yosemite in the Fall
- A Guide to Elope in Yosemite
- Best Places to Elope in California